Brace Yourself before you Pace Yourself

By Alissa Hansen

As teachers, we have pacing guides that call attention to where we should be at timewise in our courses each term. These are helpful as they give teachers a sense of being right on track and help to make sure that we end up where we need to, have acquired the skills, and have mastered the standards that are necessary at the end of the course. However, pacing for a 43 minute period with freshmen can be rather challenging. Lemov discusses pacing using the five “muscle groups” (203). Freshmen need consistency and they need to know what is required of them at all times. In fact, they will most likely ask you this question many times throughout the class period.

Knowledge Assimilation is what we do when we start a new unit. We take notes, discuss the new content all before we move into the Guided Practice component. This is the big test to see if students understand the new material that was presented, which usually takes place in the form of question and answer. Then students move on to the Independent Practice. This is when “autonomous execution of a skill” takes place (205). I usually have students complete these muscle groups often and on a daily basis. Then there is the reflection; the very important metacognition aspect of learning that needs to take place. I have to admit that I do not do this as often as I should. With my current freshmen we have finished the research paper (5 weeks!) as well as the persuasive speech, and I must have been eager to move on because I left out this critical component. I am now thinking that I want/need  to at least go back and have students reflect on what they thought was the hardest for them while completing the research paper and what they had to do to problem solve. I think this would be very worthwhile for them, especially after getting their grades and feedback on this major project. The last aspect is Discussion. Discussion is another aspect of the learning environment that I am the biggest fan of, but sometimes with 43 minute periods, this is one that doesn’t get to happen with my English I students as often as it should. In my Honors course, we do discuss daily, and at varying levels. I do think I need to incorporate more Socrative seminar, turn and talk, and debates into my English I classroom because they are capable and could benefit from hearing each other more often. I will add this to my forever growing to do list.
As great as these changing activity types are, I know I really have to watch myself as to not include too many activities in one period because that is one way to lose students!! I found this out the hard way last year after coming from teaching upperclassmen on the block for years to teaching freshmen on skinnies! It was a tough transition, but what I have found out is that 1-2 significant activities during a 43 minute class period is plenty for the mind of a 14-15 year old brain…and mine too!!! Lemov mention on page 209 that changing formats is a great strategy, especially when more time is needed in one area, or if the energy is down (which, let’s face it, can happen in any classroom).

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About alissahansen

This is my third year in the Davenport Community School District, my second year as a freshmen academy English teacher and my sixth year in the teaching profession. Before entering the field of teaching, I earned my bachelor's degree in journalism and anthropology from The University of Iowa, where I was also an arts and entertainment reporter for The Daily Iowan. From this experience, I became editor and publisher of local (Johnson County) arts and culture magazine, Little Village. I later entered the Masters in the Art of Teaching program at the University of Iowa and graduated with my M.A.T. in English education with endorsements in reading and journalism. I worked for three years at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin, Iowa as the yearbook adviser, and a reading and English teacher. Teaching is my love, and I cannot imagine doing anything else in the world, except for becoming a parent! My husband, Wade, and I had our first son, Rhys Michel, in 2012. He is growing fast and it is a pleasure to watch him bloom before our very eyes! We are both enjoying the joys of parenthood; it keeps us plenty busy, especially now that Rhys is a full-blown three-year-old who loves to dance, especially when it's Bruno Mars or Pharrell, swim, play with cars, and read books. He is a spunky guy who loves to be on the go! We had our second son, Ellis Lee, in 2014 and we are amazed at how fast he has grown already. He is 1 and is quickly settling into his funny personality. He loves watching his older brother and mimicking everything he does as well as watching "The Little Einsteins" and dancing to the theme song. I am also due at the end of April with our first girl.

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